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New York, 18.09.2017 - Statement by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the 72nd UN General Assembly - Check against delivery

Speaker: Didier Burkhalter; Burkhalter Didier

Ladies and gentlemen,

A world without death penalty and without torture: this vision brings us together here today. Increasingly, this vision is not only shared by governments and civil society organizations but also by stakeholders from the private sector. Many pharmaceutical companies, for example, have come to the conclusion that it is wrong and not in their interest to sell drugs to those who use them to execute people.

These companies provide an example of the important role private companies are playing in promoting human rights. Switzerland firmly believes that states must encourage and support the private sector in its efforts to promote and respect human rights. One way of supporting the private sector is to create a level playing field: For companies competing against each other it is essential that the same rules apply for all. This is the first reason why Switzerland supports this timely and important initiative.

In 2016, the Swiss parliament adopted legislation that prohibits the export of and trade in drugs that are used to execute people. The impact of the ban can be boosted if more and more countries adopt such a ban. It becomes more difficult for executers to find a supplier, and the stigma attached to this trace becomes bigger.
The same reasoning can be applied to goods designed for torture. This coherent approach undertaken by the Alliance is a second reason why Switzerland supports the Global Alliance.

While torture is universally prohibited capital punishment is not. This fact does not influence our point of view. Quite the contrary: Switzerland strongly opposes the death penalty in all parts of the world and under all circumstances. The worldwide abolition of the death penalty is a foreign policy priority of the Swiss government.
Switzerland is of the conviction,
• that the death penalty is not compatible with human rights and human dignity;
• that it does not deter criminals and even less so terrorists;
• that it does not bring peace and security - on the contrary and
• that it does not reduce the suffering of victims of crime.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have come a long way with our individual and joint efforts aimed at the universal abolition of capital punishment. Despite setback in a few countries, the space for the death penalty is shrinking globally. But we need to continue our efforts in order to close the chapter on the death penalty and rid humanity of this cruel punishment - which some cynically call “justice”.
30 years after the Convention against Torture came into force, torture is still too widely used and too often excused, despite its universal and absolute prohibition.

We need to build alliances and develop intelligent strategies to convince people and our partners that the death penalty and torture have no place in the 21st century. The Global Alliance is both:
• building a coalition of partners, and
• proposing a smart way to make it more difficult for those who violate human rights.

Switzerland hereby joins the Global Alliance against products used for death penalty and torture. Switzerland also encourages businesses and civil society organizations to continue supporting our efforts.

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